The Northwest College men’s basketball team put itself into position last week to beat two of its rivals in the Region IX North before late-game letdowns led to a pair of heartbreaking losses.
The Trappers lost to Laramie County CC 86-85 in overtime Wednesday and then lost to Eastern Wyoming 71-69 on Saturday to fall to 10-13 overall and 3-4 in the North.
Asked why his team seems to find itself in so many close contests, NWC head coach Dawud Abdur-Rahkman just shook his head.
“If I had an answer to that question, I’d be one of two people: I’d either be Sigmund Freud or I’d be John Wooden,” he said. “I’m not either guy, so I can’t answer that question. It’s funny because you have to be careful what you wish for. You want your guys to be competitive, but you also want to see them come out on the other side of these games on the winning end.”
The Trappers traveled to Sheridan Wednesday, and will be on the road again Saturday to take on Gillette before heading to Western Wyoming on Wednesday, Feb. 13
“I never feel like, at this level, that we can’t win,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “Each game presents a different challenge, and I think the last few teams we’ve played, we’ve been much better at executing our offense and sound basketball fundamentals. We just need to match each team’s energy, that’s going to be key.”
Eastern Wyoming 71, Trappers 69
Saturday’s game against Eastern Wyoming (8-14, 1-3) featured a little bit of everything: Lots of action, plenty of suspense, six lead changes and four 3-pointers on seven attempts by Calvin Fugett.
The Trappers also appeared to be headed to their second overtime in as many games, though literally at the last second, EWC’s Jacob Pfaffinger launched an off-balance prayer. The basketball gods answered, sending the Trappers to their third straight loss, 71-69.
“That was a tough, tough loss,” Abdur-Rahkman said. Particularly with the way the team improved in the second half, “I felt like we should have won,” he said.
Both teams were sluggish to start the game, though by the end of the first half, shots began falling. Fugett and Reme Torbert each scored nine points in the half, but the Lancers took a 35-28 lead into the locker room.
“We came out sluggish; it might have been one of our worst starts,” Abdur-Rahkman said, but “we kind of reorganized in the latter part of the first half, so we were only down by seven.”
EWC held its lead for 15 minutes into the second half, before a 3-point play by Lagio Grantsaan gave the Trappers the first advantage in some time with five minutes remaining. The Lancers retook the lead on a 3-pointer by Jordan Potts, Fugett tied the game with a field goal, then Potts hit another 3-pointer to put EWC back up by three at 66-63. A field goal by Brian Howell pulled the Trappers within a point, but the Lancers pushed their lead to two, 67-65, on a free throw. With just under a minute to play, Howell grabbed an offensive rebound and threw down a game-tying dunk that got the crowd at Cabre Gym on its feet. EWC scored on its next trip down the court, but Grantsaan tied the game again with 22 seconds left. The game appeared to be headed to OT, but Pfaffinger’s dagger allowed the Lancers to escape with the win.
Grantsaan paced the Trappers with his second consecutive double-double, netting 17 points and grabbing 10 boards. Fugett followed with 16 points to go along with four assists, and Torbert rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12 points.
Darius Webster led the team in rebounds with 13, to go along with his seven points; the redshirt sophomore also finished with five assists and a blocked shot.
LCCC 86, Trappers 85
Last week’s game against the Lancers (10-14, 3-5) got off to a promising start for Northwest, as the normally slow-starting Trappers jumped out to a 25-10 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes. Multiple field goals by Kyle Brown and Brian Howell and 3-pointers by Darius Webster, Calvin Fugett and Saheem Anthony had Northwest rolling. NWC led 43-36 at the half.
“We’re slow starters who usually play better in the second half,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “But against LCCC, we came out gang busting. It might have been the best first half of basketball I’ve seen us play all year. Even though we had a little letdown before the end of the first half, we thought we were in a good spot.”
Field goals by Howell and Grantsaan pushed Northwest’s lead to 11 to start the second half, but the Lancers chipped away as the second half progressed. They eventually tied the score with 7:37 left on the clock and the two teams traded shots for the rest of regulation. With two ticks left on the clock and his team down by three at 77-74, LCCC’s Tyrese Potoma sank a 3-pointer to send things into overtime.
“The second half was just a slow erosion of what we built in the first,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “We gotta get to a point where our decision-making is at a higher level. Our better players are missing the wide open option and driving between three guys. That can’t happen.”
The Lancers scored the first field goal in OT, though Torbert tied the game 79-79 with a pair of free throws. LCCC retook the lead behind a 3-pointer by Potoma and a bucket by Mateo Zovko and never relinquished it, holding on for the 86-85 win. Back-to-back shots by Grantsaan had the Trappers within a point before time expired.
Three Trappers finished the game in double figures, led by Grantsaan, who posted a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Howell netted 17 points, while Torbert finished with 12, to go along with a team-high five assists.
Webster was a field goal shy of a double-double of his own, finishing with eight points and 11 boards. Fugett also netted eight points, while Brown and Anthony each chipped in six. LCCC’s Potoma led all scorers with 22 points, including five shots from behind the arc.
NWC shot 46 percent for the game (33 of 71), and knocked down 14 of 18 shots from the charity stripe. LCCC shot 49 percent from the floor.